by Alan Ayckbourn.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Anthony Hopkins Theatre) To 29 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 27 May.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 0845 330 3565.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 May.

Ayckbourn under-powered in Mold.
Alan Ayckbourn’s report from the high days of Thatcherite England holds up well. Things haven’t changed that much, in human behaviour or political thrust. Though business is his subject, it’s not Ayckbourn’s target. That’s the corruption of ideals and values.

Jack McCracken’s as honest as they make ’em. There’s general rejoicing when he resigns an executive post to join the family firm Ayres and Graces – its name enshrining the two sides of his wife’s family. There’s overmuch rejoicing, in fact, as Jack chases wife Poppy round the house for a bit of the other, only to burst half-naked into a surprise party.

At least, he’s usually half-naked. Robert Blythe’s barely removed his tie and loosened his collar. It’s the start for a curiously half-hearted production. Nor does Jack’s horror at the petty, and not-so-minor, corruptions in which his family indulge to provide a flow of quick bucks, fully register.

And his final speech, where the Italian connection leads to a Mafia-style ‘family’ on which he’ll impose capo-like order, here comes over as little more than cheery determination to sort matters out in an English way.

That’s not entirely a loss; Ayckbourn’s final kick usually seems contrived, requiring a character development that’s not really there – unlike the suddenly bitter end of Absurd Person Singular for example.

Terry Hands has directed some superb productions at his Mold home. But he doesn’t show the sure hand for comedy that’s a particular gift, and the elements here are not suitably-balanced, the pace not sufficiently flexible yet precise. It’s a lumpy dramatic dessert.

Take the unhappy marriage of Desmond and Harriet, he escaping into cooking, unaware he’s hopeless at it, she living for her pet pooch. Dyfrig Morris stirs ingredients as he plans to elope with his recipe-book but his unhappiness remains remote, while Catrin Aaron’s so keen to show Harriet’s prurient disgust her face is forever twitching, as if someone keeps putting a coin in her slot.

An attempt to give the outsider a Welsh identity and a joke from mispronouncing his surname is all-too-representative of the lack of comic instinct in the evening.

Jack McCracken: Robert Blythe.
Poppy: Sherry Baines.
Ken Ayres: Tony Haygarth.
Tina: Olivia Mace.
Roy Ruston: Sion Pritchard.
Samantha: Charlotte Gray.
Cliff: Richard Ellyn.
Anita: Hilary Tones.
Desmond: Dyfrig Morris.
Harriet: Catrin Aaron.
Yvonne Doggett: Karen Ford.
Benedict Hough: Llion Williams.
Lotario Rivetti: Francois Pandolfo.
Uberto Rivetti: Franco F Spandolio.
Orlando Rivetti: Randolfo Piscano.
Vincenzo Rivetti: Napolion D Rascoli.
Giorgio Rivetti: Adolfo P Franscon.

Director/Lighting: Terry Hands.
Designer: Max Jones.
Sound: Matthew Williams.
Costume: Debbie Knight.
Fights: Terry King.

2010-05-23 17:12:12

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